Matt Kenny

If you ever find yourself walking around southeastern Milwaukee, take some time to look around. As you pass east across the Milwaukee River, you might notice a change in the air. No signs or other forms of markers will tell you, but you have actually entered a different nation, completely separate from the United States.

The Republic of Talossa is classified as a micronation, whose territorial claims consist of the majority of eastern Milwaukee as well as the island of Cezembre, off the French coast. The idea of a fictitious nation-state inside of the United States might seem far-fetched, but it really exists. Micronations exist all around the world in fact. Most appear only within the realm of an internet discussion board, such as the Republic of Talossa, with geographic claims that were never expected to be recognized in the real world. Other micronations however, have held real territory.

The most famous of these is the Principality of Sealand, which got its start when Roy Bates purchased a dilapidated sea-fort off the English coast in the late 1960s. Its location in international waters allowed its owners, “Their Royal Highnesses Prince Roy and Princess Joan of Sealand,” to add a sense of legitimacy to their claim as an independent principality. Currently though, no nation recognizes their claim of sovereignty. Sealand later would become the site of an international incident, when in 1978 it was invaded by a mixed force of Dutch and German mercenaries while occupied only by the “Royal Son,” Michael. These men were able to forcibly capture the fort, and abduct the son of the Crowned Regents, taking him to the Netherlands for ransom. According to a Sealand historical document, Prince Roy led an armed assault and was able to recapture the fort without injury to any party. As Prince Roy claimed to be holding the invaders as prisoners of war, the West German government eventually sent a diplomat to Sealand to parlay for all the release of all prisoners. As of late, Sealand has been put on the market for an asking price of 65 million British pounds. Bit-torrent website, http://thepiratebay.org attempted to purchase the fort, but failed to raise enough funds.

Micronations on the whole can challenge our perceptions of community and space. A state in the most typical sense would conjure up images of grade-school geography books, world maps and globes. As a matter of international law however, the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States of 1933 set the precedent for statehood as meeting four qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states. As a micronation, failing to be recognized by any other sovereign nations is also not a problem. Article three of the Montevideo Convention states, “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.” Falling back on the Republic of Talossa, by viewing their national Web site, one can see that these criteria are clearly met. Visitors have links to discussion boards, newsletters, and “Radio Free Talossa,” which re-broadcasts classic radio dramas. Maps of their claimed territory can also be found under a land survey project. In addition to links to government offices, political parties such as the Talossan Social Democratic Party also host sites, trying to garner membership.

As a vehicle for social interaction, micronations can foster a sense of community, even through exclusively internet-based communication. Talossans, for example, have developed their own language, which is used sporadically in everything from daily discourse to constitutional documents. Micronations have also been created as political havens. The Republic of Minerva, for example was established on the Minerva Reef in the South Pacific to be a libertarian paradise, where no forms of economic interference were to occur. The Republic of Minerva would meet an untimely end though, when in 1972 the government of Tonga laid claim to it. It was reported that the Tongan military seized the reef, lowered the Minervan flag, forcing the Minervan government into exile. The site has since been returned to its original use, as a fishing spot for Tongan locals.
These are just a few of the hundreds of micronations that exist. While the actual geographic aspect of these groups might be for fun and games, regardless, they all provide a valuable service. By allowing like-minded individuals to communicate with each other in the context of a micronation, a strong community relationship is forged.